Sunday, April 03, 2011
A sway with words
Most mornings I do the Washington Post crossword puzzle (for you moderns out there, a crossword puzzle is kind of like sudoko for people who can read). Thanks to puzzling, a lot words come to my mind quite easily that otherwise would never ever occur to me. For example, I seldom utilize decorative, based pitchers, I’ve never seen a decorative needle case, and I rarely discuss pre-Meiji Restoration Tokyo. Yet a week almost never goes by without me writing the words “ewer”, “etui”, or “Edo”. Such words are part of the glory of the genius of English, which is the great linguistic lint-trap, the river delta of dictionaries, the junkyard of jargon. Sure it makes our language a little gunky and confusing. But lint-traps are a treasure trove of spare change, river deltas have the richest soils, and junkyards are the wellspring of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs of tomorrow. Or is it “Chitty Chitties Bang Bang”? Gotta figure that out in case “cinema British flying motorcars” is a clue in a puzzle some day… Anyway, crosswords are not the only medium that helps preserve special sets of words. Comic books do it, too. There are words and phrases that I generally do not hear outside of a comic book context. For example, I seldom utilize henchmen, I’ve never met an invulnerable person, and I rarely discuss my secret identity. Of course, you’re not supposed to discuss your secret identity; but that’s not the point here. Naturally, there are going to be words and phrases that come from comic books that don’t get used in regular speech, like “batarang”, “shrink ray”, and “plastic cat arrow”. But there are also words that, while they may have been born in the real world, now exist mostly as hothouse flowers in the special environment of comic books. Words like “villain”. What words, phrases, or even concepts do you think have been preserved by the medium of comic books?